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Some Carney residents unhappy with Baltimore County’s new Towson Loop, which operates from nearby park and ride

Some Carney residents have concerns about the placement of Baltimore County’s long-awaited free bus circulator, the Towson Loop, at the Carney park and ride.

The county launched the pilot program Oct. 12 with hopes of providing free, localized transportation for residents or visitors in Towson. It operates a 12-vehicle, county-owned fleet of 25 passenger shuttles that traverses two routes within Towson.

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The Carney Improvement Association and Carney residents recently discovered that the housing, storage and headquarters of the shuttles would be at the Carney park and ride. The site, which is located between Jomat Avenue and Harford Road, now utilizes overnight parking for the shuttles, in addition to using it for trucks, buses and cars.

“The Carney park and ride was selected due to a number of factors, including the site’s low overall usage, adequate space requirements, and overall proximity to the Towson route[s] and Interstate 695,” said Sean Naron, a spokesperson for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

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Meg O’Hare, who has been president of the Carney Improvement Association since 2002, said Carney is a convenient location, but it has two major disadvantages — too much traffic and a lack of open space.

“Dumping something on Carney is always their approach,” O’Hare said. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth because Towson is the seat of government and the seat of a lot of things.”

Longtime resident Deborah Lancaster listed the community’s concerns in a September letter to Baltimore Sun Media:

“The Towson loop isn’t just a good idea — it’s a great idea. However, the Towson Loop was designed and will now be implemented at the expense of the Carney community without Carney residents’ input until most aspects of the loop were put into place … Towson benefits, but the residents of Carney who bear the noise, pollution from vehicles, trash and disruption to their lives are left in the dark.”

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Lancaster’s husband, Mark, said it’s a “shame” that the county never notifies residents of projects happening in the community.

“For me, the important thing about all of this is that there is not a lot that can be done about what has already been done here, but as of now they could at least allow Carney residents to hop on the bus to Towson for free because it’s going over there anyway and then people in Towson that want to get to Carney should be able to do that,” Mark Lancaster said.

O’Hare, who has lived in Carney for her whole life, echoed similar sentiments.

“It doesn’t seem right to build something in somebody’s community and not let them benefit off of it, especially the people it serves,” she said.

Deborah Lancaster defined the area around the property as a “failing” intersection and highlighted potential environmental concerns, such as impervious surfaces and the Jennifer Branch, a stream next to the property that runs through parts of Carney and Parkville.

The stream, she said, has been the subject of an ongoing effort for restoration by the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy’s Jennifer Branch Project and feeds into the lower Gunpowder Falls and the Chesapeake Bay.

“The county told us that there was an impact study done for the Jennifer Branch, but they never produced it and when we questioned that, they said it wasn’t necessary to do an impact study,” said Lancaster, who belongs to two organizations that work on cleaning the stream.

“How you can be a few hundred yards from a stream and not need an impact study … I don’t know,” she said.

Baltimore County Council member Wade Kach, who represents Carney, fully supports residents’ concerns with the loop’s headquarters.

“I oppose using the Carney park and ride for the Towson Circulator. The county has plans to expand it beyond the current route; it’s just not large enough and this isn’t the right place where you can have a situation where you have buses coming and going,” Kach said.

He said he has contacted Olszewski and the Department of Public Works to express his opposition in hopes that they will discover a new site.

“I would like to see the county purchase the State Highway Administration’s abandoned office on Joppa Road, which is, of course, adjacent to Towson, and it’s a big enough piece of property if and when the Towson Circulator is expanded to the other parts of the county that could house the additional buses that would be needed in the future,” Kach said.

County Council member David Marks, who has steadily pushed for the Towson Loop, also supports a different location for the service if it can be identified.

“The Carney park and ride is not in my district, but I lent my support to finding a different location for the bus depot if possible. I also support landscaping and other ways to shield the community if one cannot be found,” Marks said.

The county awarded Coach USA, a New Jersey-based bus operator that runs the pilot through its subsidiary Dillon’s Bus Service, a three-year contract with two possible two-year renewals worth a total of $27.5 million over seven years, according to Naron.

The county does not envision the Carney property as a permanent site, he said.

“The county will utilize this location during the Towson Loop pilot. Based on program growth, the department intends to identify a long-term solution to support fleet storage and maintenance needs,” he said.

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